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County still awaits word on proposed pilot program to accelerate some stage 3 openings including salons, gyms, pools, outdoor worship and youth sports practices

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

May 20, 2020 (San Diego) – “Great news for restaurants and retailers! The state just approved our plan to allow dine-in service and in-person retail sales,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob announced moments ago on Facebook. These businesses now need to complete and post a safe reopening plan to comply with social distancing and other requirements. View: Guidelines for restaurants; guidelines for retailers.

On Tuesday, Supervisors approved two measures to accelerate reopening of the economy countywide. The first sent recommendations to the state to reopen our county’s restaurants and retailers within days. The Governor and California’s Dept. of Public Health approved those recommendations today. The measure does not include bars, breweries, distilleries or wineries.

The second measure passed by supervisors is still awaiting a decision by state officials. That measure calls for a pilot program that if approved, would allow San Diego County to move partially into stage 3 by reopening hair and nail salons, gym and fitness facilities, pools at apartment complexes, outdoor religious services, and research labs. In addition, youth sports could start up for practices only, no games, in groups of 12 or less. Therapeutic and peer support groups could also resume meeting in groups of up to 12 people.

If approved, the pilot program would not yet reopen everything in stage 3, which ultimately would include movie theaters, in-person worship services, sports leagues with audiences, arts and cultural institutions, colleges and universities, tours and sports fishing, and personal services.  It would also not address stage 4 openings of large, crowded venues such as concerts and amusement parks.

The pilot program proposal was supported by four county supervisors, with Nathan Fletcher opposed. Supervisor Desmond has called the pilot program a “step in the right direction.”

 Fletcher issued a statement indicating since stage 2 businesses have not yet opened, he believes it is too soon to open higher risk stage 3 activities

“Governor Newsom has said he believes we will be ready to move into `Stage 3’ at the beginning of June,” Fletcher noted. “That is less than two weeks away and I believe a wiser course of action is to fully and safely implement ‘Stage 2’, monitor any impact of our public health situation, and prepare for successful implementation of ‘Stage 3 in the coming weeks.”

The San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center Network and Supervisor Fletcher have partnered up, however, to hep small business owners with reopening. A new website, offers daily updates for busineses on regulations, health guidelines and opportunities to access capital.  Also available are free one-on-one consulting and training, including some industry-specific options. 

Public reactions to Supervisor Jacob’s announcement tonight on Facebook are nearly all positive.

“Thank you and please move quickly!” John Lewis wrote. “Every minute is hurting people, businesses and everything else,” he added, referring to the closures in effect since mid-March.

Crystal Deuth stated, “Opening the salons would boost people’s morale…People all over SD are getting depressed and lonely; they need this to be able to get out and do things and see people.”

But James Lehnert voiced concerns. “Just wait til the second round of the virus hits; everyone who is crying now, will really be crying later. Keep closed and Be safe, not reckless. So sad to see this!”

Some posed questions.  Billie Jo Jannen, chair of the Campo-Lake Morena Community Planning Group, asked,”What about meetings by county-sponsored community groups. When will THOSE be viable?”

A modified county stay-home order now allows people to leave home to go to open businesses, out for exercise, or for essential needs, though people are required to stay six feet from others and follow requirements for facial coverings.

Tests conducted over the pat 14 days are averaging a 39% positive rate. As of May 19, 80 new cases and 11 more deaths were reported.

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

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